USA vs. Czech Republic
Game time: Noon ET / 9 p.m. Sochi time
TV: USA (USA), TSN2 (Canada)
Streaming: NBCOlympics.com (USA), Olympics.CBC.ca (Canada)
One of the biggest questions heading into quarterfinal action on Wednesday is what the Czech Republic can reasonably expect to get out of starting goaltender Ondrej Pavelec.
Pavelec was probably already the biggest question mark on the team heading into the tournament, but having to play in back-to-back games isn't an ideal situation for him or the Czech team. Most goalies struggle in the tail end of such situations, and Pavelec has been no exception throughout his career, posting some truly concerning numbers.
Ondrej Pavelec's career NHL record in back-to-backs: 4-17-0, 4.22 GAA, .866 save % on 575 SA. Yikes.— ContrarianGoaltender (@tcghockey) February 18, 2014
Going up against a United States team that has been one of the most dangerous offensive teams in the tournament, and one that boasts five of the top 20 goal scorers in the NHL this season (Patrick Kane, Phil Kessel, Max Pacioretty, James van Riemsdyk and Joe Pavelski), could be a problem for a Czech team that is coming off a 5-3 win over Slovakia in knockout play on Tuesday.
Team USA, which is well rested having not played since Sunday in a 5-1 win over Slovenia, will be countering with Jonathan Quick in net who last played on Saturday in a 3-2 shootout win over Russia.
While the United States has been consistently good heading into play on Wednesday, the Czech Republic has had an up-and-down tournament to date, losing to Sweden and Switzerland -- and not looking particularly good while doing it -- while beating Latvia and Slovakia.
The good news for the Czechs is that Patrik Elias, who had been under the weather this week, is expected to be in the lineup after missing their game against Slovakia on Tuesday. He has appeared in just two games in the tournament, recording one assist.
This might be the biggest test to date for the Czech Republic as it has yet to face a team as deep, talented and fast as the United States in this tournament. The US enters the game with 15 goals and, other than Finland (also 15 goals), has been one of the few teams that hasn't been bogged down by the tight defensive play that's dominated the tournament. And it hasn't been just one player doing the damage. Phil Kessel comes into the game as the tournament's leading scorer with four goals and three assists, including a hat trick the last time the Americans were on the ice, but the US has been pretty balanced in terms of its scoring as it's received goals from 10 different players.
With a win, the United States would move onto the semifinals and get a likely matchup with Canada (Canada will be heavily favored against Latvia) in a potential rematch of the 2010 gold medal game. A win would guarantee that the United States would at least play for a medal for the third time in the past four Olympics.